Data needs for food policy in developing countries

towards criteria for choice of approaches.

Food policy reforms have dominated the development agenda in many low-income countries in recent years. Governments in developing countries as well as donors are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of policies on people’s living standards, food security, and nutrition. The World Summit for Children in 1990 and the International Conference on Nutrition in 1992 as well as the country-level preparation and follow-up activities to these conferences are cases in point. To develop effective policies and mitigate any potential negative effects, it is necessary to (1) quantify the actual impact of food policy changes on incomes, resources, expenditures, and nutrition; (2) understand the response mechanisms of individuals, households, and markets to changing socioeconomic environments; and (3) identify the most vulnerable groups for targeting programs and projects. AU these activities require substantial amounts of data. Yet there are significant deficiencies in data availability and quality, and gaps remain in understanding the complex interrelations in food policy and nutrition. Household surveys are indispensable for analyzing distributional policy effects between and within households, for investigating resource-allocation decisions at the household level, and for relating welfare indicators such as income or nutritional status to policy and program interventions as well as to macro, structural, socioeconomic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Thus, they are complementary to sectoral-, administrative-. and community-level data gathered by using alternative survey methods (such as- enterprise or market surveys) or as part of administrative recording procedures (for example, land use statistics). Where such data are not available. are not reliable. are difficult to collect, or are not comprehensive, household surveys can contribute significantly to improving basic socioeconomic statistics. There is a broad consensus in the development community that informed policy and program decision making calls for improved data from the household. It is critical to determine where to invest scarce resources and to define criteria for appropriate information-collection approaches, depending on specific food policy questions. Data needs ought primarily to be a function of decision needs. Yet, past data collection and related capacity-building efforts for information utilization in developing countries have often been disappointing for food policymakers, for instance~ because relevant topics were not addressed or results were not presented in a timely manner. Another concern is that data qua1ity issues are not being adequately addressed in policy analysis.

Scherr, Sara J.
Vosti, Stephen A.
Published date: 
Washington, D.C. : International Food Policy Research Institute ( IFPRI), [1992]
PDF file: 
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